ON the morning of January 28, 2016 a massive fire began to tear through Bradford’s mighty Drummond Mill.

The Manningham mill, once a world leader in the textile industry, burned throughout the day and night, with January winds fanning the flames. More than 120 firefighters tackled the blaze, but couldn’t save the historic building.

Within a week the site, covering 10 acres, was reduced to piles of rubble. More than 150 years of history had gone up in smoke.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The huge mill complex was reduced to rubble within a weekThe huge mill complex was reduced to rubble within a week (Image: Riaz Ahmed)

To mark the eighth anniversary of the fire, Bradford Through the Lens - a YouTube channel exploring the history of various places in the district - has gone back to the beginnings of the mill, which employed generations of families.

The Bradford Through the Lens team, led by Riaz Ahmed, with researchers Andrew Bolt and Mark Nicholson, has produced a video called Shock Blaze at Drummond Mill, tracing the early history of the building and the 2016 fire. The video features these striking images taken by Riaz of the aftermath of the blaze.

The video begins with Riaz in Scholemoor Cemetery, where the Drummond family is buried. “First impressions are that it’s a very modest family grave, compared with some of the memorials here,” says Riaz. The letter D is carved on the stone pillar and the inscription bears the names of James Drummond, his wife Emma, daughter Elizabeth and one of their two sons, James.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Riaz at the Drummond family grave in Scholemoor Cemetery Riaz at the Drummond family grave in Scholemoor Cemetery (Image: Riaz Ahmed)

James Drummond (senior) was born in Blyth in Northumberland and moved to Bradford with his parents in 1825. “He was an apprentice in the wool sorting and spinning trade then became a partner in Hill, Smith and Drummond,” says Riaz. “Smith retired in 1849 and Hill died in 1851.

“The worsted business continued to expand, and Drummond built a large mill in Lumb Lane. In 1871 his won entered the business and it became Drummond & Partners.”

The film reveals that James Drummond was a Wesleyan reformer and a Liberal councillor for the Manningham ward. Between 1867-1870 he served on the Board of Guardians, which oversaw organisations such as Bradford Workhouse.

Drummond Mill was one of the region’s largest employers and a pioneer of worsted coating. The size of the building, and its grand Lockwood and Mawson design, made it a landmark of the city. As well as the main structure and huge tower, it had one of the biggest weaving sheds in the district, containing hundreds of looms and an engine house.

In the early 20th century the mill was acquired by Solomon Selka and Berthold Reif and in the 1940s it was taken on by Ossie Stroud and James Riley. After the war Drummond Mill employed many people who migrated to Bradford from Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Italy and Ireland.

The mill continued to thrive in the second half of the 20th century, despite the decline of the textile industry. In 1984 it received the Queen’s Award for Export and a decade later it produced fabric for uniforms for Team GB at the Commonwealth Games. In 1999, the business announced £1m profit and invested £2m in high-speed looms and finishing equipment. Eventually the mill closed in 2001.

The Shock Blaze video features a montage of images taken by Riaz in the days after the 2016 fire. Firefighters were still tackling pockets of fire and, says Riaz, “within a week the sprawling 10-acre site - a leading part of Bradford’s global textile empire - was in ruins.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Riaz's powerful images capture the aftermath of the fire Riaz's powerful images capture the aftermath of the fire (Image: Riaz Ahmed)

The film features images of the derelict site and charred ruins of the mill building, including the remains of an ornate stone doorway of Drummond House. In a salvage truck is a 12-tonne old boiler, once used to heat the entire mill. It was replaced, says Riaz, with a coal fire boiler in 1979.

Adds Riaz: “During the salvage operations they came across a safe from the 1800s and a wooden trolley, on the wheels it says ‘Bowling Iron Company’.”

A powerful image, taken days after the fire, shows the burnt-out shell of the main building.

When the fire broke out, neighbouring homes were evacuated and residents taken to Richard Dunn Sports Centre before being put up in a hotel overnight. Resident Nayim Rehman told the T&A: “There was debris falling and thick black fog that hurt your throat. The whole street was panicking, it was havoc. Even the fire crews had to move back.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The fire quickly ripped through the 10-acre complexThe fire quickly ripped through the 10-acre complex (Image: Riaz Ahmed)

Surrounding businesses were hit by the fire too. A mill wall fell onto the Sweet Centre cafe on Lumb Lane, causing the ceiling to collapse. At the Barracks Tavern pub, landlady Carol Marshall was in tears as the mill came down. “Some customers worked there. They're devastated,” she told the T&A.

Some of Riaz’s images capture the demolition work that began a week after the fire. A team from Thomas Crompton Demolition worked days and nights bringing down what remained of the Grade II-listed mill building. “It’s a sad day,” said Mr Compton. “It was a working building. I don’t get any pleasure pulling these buildings down.”

Riaz captured an image of the fire-ravaged mill just as it was about to collapse. “Drummond Mill was a big part of Bradford’s skyline for such a long time. Now it was about to disappear forever,” he says. “James Drummond built an empire, employed more than 1,100 people and traded worldwide. His legacy burned to the ground eight years ago.”

* To watch the Shock Blaze video go to www.youtube.com/@BradfordThroughTheLens

Emma Clayton